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Visiting the Parish Church of Lieler, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: recalling the complexities of history

Updated on January 21, 2015
Flag of Luxembourg
Flag of Luxembourg | Source
Lieler Church
Lieler Church | Source
Lieler Church
Lieler Church | Source
Lieler Church
Lieler Church | Source

Where is Lieler Church?

At Lieler (Létzebuergesch: Léiler), in the north of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the parish church of the Holy Cross (French: Eglise Sainte-Croix; Létzebuergesch: Helleg-Kräiz-Kapell; German: Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche) is an interesting building. In some ways, it defies conventional thinking.

First, the facts. The nave mainly dates from 1849/50. The parish was established in 1807. During World War Two, the building was extensively damaged; it was later restored in 1956. Remnants of the building, however, date from the 14th century; and in recent years a program of refurbishment revealed the existence of some Medieval religious art. The building's short, squat tower with a conspicuous steeple, and its narrow windows, with external walls maintained in pristine white paint, typify a style found in some isolated villages in Luxembourg's north, known as the Oesling (Létzebuergesch: Éislek) (1).

Now the myths: By reputation, the period of French occupation in Luxembourg after the French Revolution was an era of militant secularism. Indeed, the north of Luxembourg underwent a religiously-inspired uprising at the end of the 18th century, by way of a reaction to the forces of French-led secularism. This conventional viewpoint contains much truth, yet the parish of Lieler was actually created during the period of French occupation, when Luxembourg was known as le départment des Forêts.

Again, the post-World War Two period in Western Europe has been reputed to be an age of increasing secularism, when traditional churches and their many buildings have found it difficult to maintain their upkeep. Yet in Luxembourg, even in the smallest of villages such as Lieler, the spending of readily available resources on well maintained churches is very much a feature of ecclesiastical real estate.

Another apparent anomaly (unless one bears in mind linguistic nuances): in the surrounding churchyard, there is a monument to the liberation of the village of Lieler in 1945 — during the Battle of the Bulge — and if one looks at a German description of the monument, the liberation is said to have been accomplished by a 'Panzer' entity. Wait a minute, the student of warfare may exclaim; the Panzer Divisions, popularly referred to as such in much English language literature about World War Two, were Nazi German tanks (and this was indeed so)! But the word 'Panzer' in German means 'tank', and, while much English language literature about World War Two uses the German word to refer specifically to tanks in Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht, the German language word itself may be used in a far more general sense, so that 'Panzers' may be correctly said to have liberated Lieler — and other localities — from the German occupiers: these 'Panzers' were in fact American.

Another interesting feature of the church is that the arms of the parish of Ouren are sculpted at the choir of the church: Ouren is in fact in present-day Belgium, across the border from Lieler. Then, again, for a part of its history, the building in a former manifestation was a dependency of Prüm Abbey, in present-day Germany. The ecclesiastical links of Lieler church have in fact varied over the century; at different times it has been attached to dioceses or archdioceses in Liège, Belgium, Metz, France, and currently Luxembourg City. It is as if national boundaries have been relatively fluid, while the element of continuity has been provided by the ecclesiastical real estate.

And there we must leave Lieler, in Clervaux (Létzebuergesch: Klierf; German: Clerf) municipality with its parish founded by the reputedly more secularist French authorities, attached administratively at various times to all three of Luxembourg's neighbouring countries, and liberated by Panzers (in German, at least!) at the end of World War Two.

January 19, 2015


(1) See also:

Map location of the enlarged Clervaux municipality
Map location of the enlarged Clervaux municipality | Source

Also worth seeing

In Lieler itself, at the meeting of its borders with the parishes of Ouren (Belgium) and Sevenig (Germany), the Europe Monument commemorates the developing of the institutions of the European Union, which are said to be intended to diminish such borders.

Troisvierges (distance: 9.8 kilometres) has St. André parish church with an interesting domed spire, and an ornate interior; the main body of the building dates from the 17th century, while the tower was built in 1924. Historical note: World War One on the Western Front started here, when Imperial German troops alighted at Troisvierges's railroad station, thus violating the Grand Duchy's neutrality.

Cinqfontaines Jewish deportation memorial (distance: 13.8 kilometers); this sombre monument was erected in 1969, and commemorates hundreds of Jews deported by rail during World War Two from near this location.

Clervaux , Luxembourg (distance: 12.5 kilometres) has a fine castle, ecclesiastical architecture of distinction and memories from the Battle of the Bulge.


How to get there: The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel, from where car rental is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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